Over 60,000 people gathered to pledge their commitment to activism this weekend at the annual Global Citizen Festival, which took place this Saturday on the Great Lawn of Central Park. Numbers were projected, rallying cries were made and countless celebrities took the stage in the end-of-summer heat to address the many injustices plaguing our world. On the surface, the festival demonstrates every pretense of great change, but the actual results of the events are yet to be explicitly seen.
While the Global Citizen organization engages with and encourages global activism all year, its main contribution is the music festival, which continuously boasts an exclusive list of headliners. In an effort to involve people in their battle for change, tickets are obtained through entry into a drawing but only after a series of meager online tasks have been completed. The tasks are mindless and require minimal effort — like signing an online petition or tweeting a scripted message — making it possible to pledge your devotion towards ending something as complex as extreme poverty without having to read a single fact on the issue.
Despite this lack of authentic involvement, Global Citizen still maintains the image of total engagement with a broad community of international citizens and the world. The slew of celebrities that graced the stage on Saturday made it a point to thank the festival goers for their noble efforts which, according to them, has already brought about a great deal of change. Yet, the actual truth of that change is still unclear. The many speeches highlighting the outcomes of this year’s festival were clouded with ambiguous wording such as “actions taken,” “commitments made” and “lives to be affected,” none of which imply a guaranteed success.
The so-called commitments that Global Citizen has determined as successes are most usually agreements made by political leaders to aid in some form of global change. However, these are only supposedly commitments and do not actually include any measure of accountability. The only effort of accountability Global Citizen has made is a recent report on the status of the water and sanitation commitments. In the report, Global Citizen outlines 25 of the efforts towards change. Of these only three have been completed, 11 are still in progress and the remaining 11 are either off track or labeled unknown.
The wavering results and questionable reliability of Global Citizen to actually produce change raises the question of why they continue to rally support. With headliners like Kendrick Lamar and Rihanna, along with easily obtained tickets, it becomes difficult to discern the real globally minded citizens from those eager for a good concert. Despite motives, Global Citizen seems to have convinced a community of people that they are enacting global change without lifting a finger.
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